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Nvidia and AMD have each launched mainstream graphics cards to kick off the new year. The GeForce RTX 3050 and Radeon RX 6500 XT are both available now — as long as your definition of “available” is flexible. These video cards are both ideal for gamers who are still using 1080p 60Hz monitors, and they are priced to match. The 3050 starts at $250 while the 6500 XT is $200. The price and the stats, which I’ll get into, emphasize a difference in strategy for Nvidia and AMD. For gamers, however, the old wisdom holds true: you should spend as much as you can on your GPU.
The 6500 XT was exciting because it marked the return of the competent $200 GPU. Even before AMD’s recent resurgence, it was already a dominant player in the affordable GPU space. The $200 RX 480 from 2016 had (and still has) really good 1080p60 performance. And to this day, I would recommend a 480 or 580 to someone looking to build a budget rig. The expectations with the 6500 XT were that it would take the place of those now-ancient RX 400/500-series recommendations.
|AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT|
|Boost frequency||2.815 GHz|
|Game frequency||2.610 MHz|
|Infinity cache||16 MB|
|Memory speed||18 Gbps|
The RTX 3050, meanwhile, is coming from a slightly different lineage and reputation. Nvidia’s XX50 cards are often something you settle for reluctantly. Or, at least, that was my personal perception. They are good for free-to-play esports titles and not much else, right? Well, the 3050 flips that script slightly.
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050|
|Boost clock||1.78 GHz|
|Base clock||1.55 GHz|
|VRAM||8 GB GDDR6|
The variances in price and components between AMD and Nvidia emphasize how the market is shifting. Global supply-chain shortages continue to push up the price of memory, so it’s not surprising that AMD found a way to cut back. And while 1080p60 is not the standard it once was in 2016, the 3050 is clearly an expectation that the lower end of PC gaming will continue attracting newcomers around the globe. Basically, Nvidia is treating it like it’s worth its time.
I tested a suite of games between the two cards, but I picked three to focus on in the new God of War port for PC, Hitman 3, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. I think these three are illustrative of the gap between the cards as well as their overall performance. For each game, I tested at 1080p and “high” settings. For AC: Odyssey, I used the Very High preset.
I also used “average framerate” and not the 99% or 95% low framerate (which tells you the minimum framerate you’ll get 99% or 95% of the time). Something like a 99% low is very important in seeing the difference between two cards that are pretty close in performance. The gap between the 3050 and 6500 XT is wide enough that it’s not necessary here.
Here are the results:
The RTX 3050 has a substantial lead over the RX 6500 XT. Nvidia’s card is around 40% faster in these three games on average — and that is greater than the 25% price premium. The 3050 is also easily keeping up with these games when it comes to that magical 1080p60 threshold. Going back to that 99% low, the 3050 rendered God of War and Hitman 3 at faster than 60 frames per second 99% of the time. And its 99% low for AC: Odyssey is a respectable 57 frames per second.
Even going beyond the comparison to the 3050, the 6500 XT struggles to hit 60 frames per second in God of War and AC Odyssey. It does stay above 60 frames per second throughout 99% of the Hitman 3 test, though.
I would call the RTX 3050 the new 1080p60 king, but that’s a less important title than it once was. The audience that was using 1080p60 monitors in 2016 have started moving to 1440p and higher refresh rates. But 1080p60 gaming is still a fine sweet spot — especially in a time when building a computer or finding a new-gen console is so challenging.
If you can get the 3050 at retail price, it’s worth it. The EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black card I was using retails for $250, and it’s a lot of card for that price in 2022. Once you start getting into the higher-end 3050s, I would try to get a 3060 or Radeon 6600 instead.
The Radeon RX 6500 XT is, unfortunately, an odd duck. It can still fly, but it’s awkward with only 4GB of memory and a limited memory bus. It is really noticeable in games like God of War, which make it clear that it would really like more than 4GB of memory when you’re in the settings menu.
But if you can get the 6500 XT at its retail price, it’s still gonna perform just fine for you in most games at medium settings.
Both cards are available now. AMD and Nvidia helped GamesBeat get sample units for the purpose of this review.
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